Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Robert Hamill murder inquiry ‘has left ex-RUC chief Sir Ronnie Flanagan’s credibility in ruins’

Diane Hamill with a picture of her murdered brother Robert Hamill, who was beaten to death in a sectarian attack in Portadown in 1997
Former Northern Ireland Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 19/2/99: Collect picture of Portadown man Robert Hamill, murderec in 1996.

Sir Ronnie Flanagan’s credibility is in tatters and his handling of the investigation into the death of Robert Hamill must be examined “from the beginning to the end”, an inquiry has been told.

In his closing submission, Barra McGrory QC, a lawyer acting on behalf of the Hamill family, also accused the former RUC chief of lying to the inquiry and giving a police officer in charge of the case “the nod” to bury an allegation.

Lawyers acting for Sir Ronnie will challenge these claims at the Robert Hamill Inquiry this week.

Mr Hamill, a Catholic father-of-three, died from head injuries after being beaten by a loyalist mob in Portadown in April 1997.

In setting out the key elements of his argument yesterday, Mr McGrory said Sir Ronnie had lied to the inquiry and his “creditworthiness” had been destroyed because he denied making certain remarks concerning Mr Hamill's death.

Earlier this year the inquiry heard evidence from a former senior civil servant, Anthony Langdon, who told the inquiry that during a conversation he had with the former RUC chief, Sir Ronnie said to him that he thought Mr Hamill’s death could have been caused by his family cradling his head in a way that led to oxygen starvation.

He said Sir Ronnie accepted that Mr Hamill's death had resulted from the beating, but that he thought the connection was “indirect” and that a charge of murder might not be possible.

He also accused Mr Hamill’s sister of having an agenda to discredit the RUC.

Mr McGrory said when he asked Sir Ronnie if he had made those remarks during his evidence, he denied them.

“Now, in our respectful submission, that is not the truth. He said them and he knows he said them.

“Therefore, his creditworthiness before this tribunal is in tatters, because the higher the degree of creditworthiness a witness brings to a court, the greater the fall, in our respectful submission.

“This tribunal (inquiry) now must look at the conduct of Sir Ronnie Flanagan from the beginning to the end through a different prism,” Mr McGrory said.

A central issue of the inquiry has surrounded an alleged tip-off by Reserve Constable Robert Atkinson to a suspect, Allister Hanvey.

The inquiry has heard claims that Mr Atkinson phoned Mr Hanvey’s home on the morning after the attack to warn him to destroy clothes he had been wearing.

Mr Atkinson, who is no longer an officer, denies the allegation and his legal team will be among those making closing submissions. Mr Hanvey denies any involvement in the Hamill murder.

At hearing.

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